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Five Things Learned: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Manchester City (Premier League)



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Moments of brilliance from Josko Gvardiol and Erling Haaland saved Manchester City from a largely poor performance against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

The win sees the reigning Premier League champions stay within just one point of first-placed Arsenal at the top of the division, with the Sky Blues maintaining their game-in-hand advantage on Mikel Arteta’s men.

Nottingham Forest started Sunday afternoon’s match on the front foot as they stand in the midst of a relegation battle and securing any points at the weekend would have kept them in control of their own destiny.

However, despite the strong start, it was City who broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute when Josko Gvardiol headed home from a Kevin De Bruyne corner at the near post. A thunderous header from the Croatian, who has now scored three goals in his past four games.

Forest had multiple opportunities to level the game before half-time, but Nuno Espírito Santo’s side could not convert any of the ample golden chances they had created for themselves in front of goal.

Manchester City went into the locker room after the opening 45 minutes with a somewhat undeserved lead, only to follow it up with some of the worst football the squad has arguably played all season. 

Less than 90 seconds into the second-half, Chris Wood had yet another opportunity to equalise but his tap-in opportunity was narrowly cleared by Josko Gvardiol. Forest had a few more attempts on the counter but could not land a shot on target. However, much like the game at the City Ground last season, you could feel an equaliser coming.

Pep Guardiola recognised his team’s sluggish play and brought on Erling Haaland in the 62nd minute for Jack Grealish. It was already the third substitute of City’s game, with Stefan Ortega and Mateo Kovacic coming on in place of an injured Ederson, and Jeremy Doku at half-time.

The dagger came in the 71st minute when Erling Haaland calmly dribbled past a Forest defender and beat the keeper with his weak foot. It was a goal that seemingly came from nothing, set up by Kovacic breaking the lines to De Bruyne, who played the Norwegian in for the insurance goal.

Nottingham Forest were unable to respond after the second goal and Manchester City were able to coast to victory to keep control of the title race, travelling back to the Etihad Stadium to face Wolves next Saturday.

Here are the Five Things We Learned from Manchester City’s victory over Nottingham Forest on Sunday afternoon!

Erling Haaland still has it

There’s been a lot of (reactionary) talk around Erling Haaland this season. It’s true that his finishing, at times, has been poor this season. However, the 23-year-old striker has battled foot injuries for the entire back half of the season and clearly has not been at full fitness. 

The Norwegian’s goal on Sunday afternoon was nothing short of excellent, and was a near carbon copy of his goal against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the UEFA Champions League 12 months prior.

For a “struggling” striker, Haaland still leads the Premier League with 21 goals and now has 32 across all competitions. In retrospect, Haaland’s 32 goals would be equal to, or better than every single Sergio Aguero season minus Pep Guardiola’s inaugural campaign in 2016/17 (33).

Josko Gvardiol showing signs of becoming a superstar

Much like Erling Haaland, there was a lot of (reactionary) talk around Josko Gvardiol and the £77.6 million that was spent on him by Manchester City officials during the most recent summer transfer window.

Just like Haaland’s finishing, there were some struggles, but you would figure after watching eight seasons of Pep Guardiola managing Manchester City that fans would realise the development pattern of his players. 

The Croatian now has three goals in his last four games, and his 90 touches on Sunday afternoon trailed only Rodri on the field. After turning just 22-years-old in January, it’s important to highlight that Gvardiol is actually younger than John Stones was when the Barnsley-born centre-back joined from Everton in 2016.

The future is incredibly bright.

It’s time to be worried about Bernardo Silva

Since signing for the club in May 2017, Bernardo Silva has been nothing short of spectacular.

The former AS Monaco midfielder has been excellent when played out wide on the right, through the middle as an attacking midfielder, and even in a deeper role against Liverpool and Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea. 

However, something has changed. Maybe it’s just down to tactics or instructions, maybe it’s the thousands of minutes (and miles) logged into those legs, maybe it’s because his time in Manchester is finally coming to an end.

Whatever the reason is, Bernardo looks miles (literally) off it. It’s less apparent when he’s deployed on the right, there are still flashes of the old Bernardo Silva, but whenever he’s been used through the middle, none of it seems to be working.

Kyle Walker returned back to his 2023 form

After just praising his 2024 performances just a few days ago, the 33-year-old full-back had one of his tougher performances in recent memory. He was spun by Anthony Elanga and failed to get back into position, could not handle his inverted role, and failed to keep control.

A messy performance, and probably a sign that a fresh face needs to be recruited during the upcoming summer transfer window.

The run-in still has plenty of drama

Arsenal have three matches remaining; first is a home match against an in-form Bournemouth, then they travel north to face a completely unpredictable Manchester United, only to end the season back at the Emirates Stadium against a surging Everton. 

Elsewhere, Manchester City have four game remaining.

The next two contests for Pep Guardiola’s side are against Wolves (H) and Fulham (A), with their seasons effectively over with little to play for. However, closing with Tottenham away and West Ham at home has the potential to create some true drama.

That is if Arsenal can hold on…